Dr Christofer Clemente | UniSC | University of the Sunshine Coast, Queensland, Australia

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Dr Christofer Clemente

PhD W.Aust., Hons1 W.Aust., BSc (majoring in Zoology) W.Aust.

  • Associate Professor in Evolutionary Biomechanics
  • Group leader, Biomechanics and Biorobotics lab
  • School of Science, Technology and Engineering
+61 7 5459 4535
Office location
Sunshine Coast
Dr Christofer Clemente

Associate Professor Christofer Clemente is interested in the relationship between form, function and ecology of living and extinct animals. His earliest studies examined the relationship between vision and ecology in spiders. Later, at the University of Western Australia, Dr Clemente switched his focus to the evolution of locomotion. He studied morphology, metabolic rates and biomechanics and compared these to ecological characteristics and locomotory ability in a large group of lizards, the varanids.

Christofer similarly studied these traits in other lizard groups, including an extensive project examining the evolution of bipedalism in dragon lizards, showing lizards were essentially popping a wheelie. He later continued his research at the University of Cambridge, focusing on insect adhesion, examining the multitude of solutions insects have developed to overcome the problems of sticking to smooth surfaces.

At Harvard University, he examined the vertebrate muscle system, specifically how muscle mechanics integrate with the environment dynamically, during locomotion. His research at the University of Queensland continued into lizard locomotion, with a focus on the design of biologically inspired climbing robots. He has combined many aspects of this research into his current role at the University of the Sunshine Coast and is particularly interested in the emerging field of Evolutionary Biomechanics.

Professional memberships

  • Society of Integrative and Comparative Biology (SICB)
  • Society for Experimental Biology (SEB)
  • Royal Society of Western Australia (RSWA)


  • ARC Discovery Grant (2023-2026) - Combining biomechanics and movement ecology of kangaroos and relatives DP180100220 ($434,159)
  • Holsworth Wildlife Research Endowment (2020) Using accelerometer data from wild perenties to reconstruct the biomechanics of invasive faunal turnovers in Australia ($7490)
  • ARC Discovery Grant (2018-2020) - Understanding evolution in natural systems using robotic models DP180100220 ($306,832)
  • ARC Discovery Grant (2018-2020)- Using performance to predict the survival of threatened mammals DP180103134 ($344,192)
  • Endeavour Mobility grant (2018) - Short term mobility - Ecuador, Galapagos Islands ($20,000)
  • ARC DECRA fellowship (2012-2015) Design of a biologically inspired running and climbing robotic lizard DE120101503 ($385,000).
  • Company of Biologists Travelling Fellowship (2014) - Scaling of Muscle Architecture in Monitor Lizards (£3,000)
  • UQ New Staff Research Start-Up Fund (2013) Design and construction of a biologically inspired running and climbing robotic lizard ($12,000).
  • UQ-UWA bilateral scheme (2014) - How do echidnas handle the cold? Development and application of cutting edge technology to determine how echidnas exploit their environment for thermoregulation ($15,678).


We are interested in the relationship between form, function and ecology of living and extinct animals. Our projects focus on the different ways that biomechanics of movement can limit the pathways available for evolution.

Australia offers a variety of unique animal species and many of the iconic ones are study species in our lab. From Biomechanics of Kangaroo hopping using computer simulations over studying invasive versus native species comparing their locomotion to determine potential advantages in ecological niches on to equipping the large perentie lizards in the big red deserts of Australia with GPS and accelerometers to study their 24/7 behaviours and roaming.

We have projects available in the following fields:
Bio-inspired Robotics

Build simplified physical, climbing and jumping robotic models to create a complete map of the adaptive landscape for a performance task.

My lab has developed several biologically mimicking robots through which we can understand character trait evolution. We have built a lizard mimicking climbing robot, a jumping insect robot, and are currently designing a kangaroo hopping robot.

Computational biomechanics

Combining muscle physiology and biomechanics in virtual computational models to map complex changes in the adaptive landscape.

To do this, CT scans of bones and soft tissue are segmented and imported into the free OpenSim software, via open source CAD software. Muscle 3D paths are constrained to ensure that muscles follow realistic paths throughout their range of motion, based on dissection data. Combined with muscle architecture and physiological parameters, we can generate a functional 3D musculoskeletal geometry. With the input of 3D motion capture of movement, and ground reaction forces, the OpenSim workflow allows rapid calculation of inverse kinematics, inverse dynamics and static optimisation. These features allow us to determine joint moments, muscle activations and muscle stresses throughout a stride. The ability to rapidly scale this model both in size and shape allows us to, like our robotic models, understand the limits to performance, via modifying phenotypes independently, without the confounding effects of phylogenetic history.

Biomechanics in the field

Using accelerometers and machine learning to study animal behaviour without watching. What do animals do 24/7?

Animals behave differently in the lab vs in their natural habitat. But their behaviour may also be influenced by the fact that we look at them in their natural habitat. Hence, we have initialised a few projects using accelerometers and GPS in combination with camera traps, and machine learning algorithms to find out what these animals do when they’re not watched. By matching known locomotor behaviour – i.e. feeding, resting, walking, hunting etc. with the responding accelerometer tracks, we can train an algorithm to detect behaviours for the unknown time frames.

Research areas

  • ecophysiology
  • ecomorphology
  • biomechanics
  • evolutionary systems

Teaching areas

  • Ecophysiology
  • Wildlife photography
  • Animal form and function

Program coordinator

Recent Publications

  • Clemente, C.J. and Dick, T.J., 2023. How scaling approaches can reveal fundamental principles in physiology and biomechanics Journal of Experimental Biology 226, jeb245310.
  • Schultz J T., Labonte D. and Clemente, C.J., 2023. Multilevel dynamic adjustments of geckos (Hemidactylus frenatus) climbing vertically: head-up versus head-down. Royal Society Interface. 202022.0840
  • Gaschk, J.L., Del Simone, K., Wilson, R.S. and Clemente, C.J., 2023. Resting disparity in quoll semelparity: examining the sex-linked behaviours of wild roaming northern quolls (Dasyurus hallucatus) during breeding season. Royal Society Open Science, 10(2), p.221180.
  • Gaschk, J.L. and Clemente, C.J., 2022. Classifying relationships that define interactions between native and invasive species in Australian ecosystems. Australian Journal of Zoology, 70(1), pp.22-35.
  • Haagensen, T., Gaschk, J.L., Schultz, J.T. and Clemente, C.J., 2022. Exploring the limits to turning performance with size and shape variation in dogs. Journal of Experimental Biology, 225(21), p.jeb244435.[cover picture]
  • Thornton,L., Dick, T., Bennett, M., Clemente, C.J., 2022. Understanding Australia’s unique hopping species: A comparative review of the musculoskeletal system and locomotor biomechanics in Macropodoidea. Australian Journal of Zoology 69, 136-157.
  • Cieri, R.L., Dick, T.J., Morris, J.S. and Clemente, C.J., 2022. Scaling of fibre area and fibre glycogen concentration in the hindlimb musculature of monitor lizards: implications for locomotor performance with increasing body size. Journal of Experimental Biology, 225, p.jeb243380.
  • Kelp, N.Y., Gore, A., Clemente, C.J., Tucker, K., Hug, F. and Dick, T.J., 2021. Muscle architecture and shape changes in the gastrocnemii of active younger and older adults. Journal of Biomechanics, 129, p.110823.
  • Beck, H.K., Schultz, J.T. and Clemente, C.J., 2021. A bio-inspired robotic climbing robot to understand kinematic and morphological determinants for an optimal climbing gait. Bioinspiration & biomimetics, 17(1), p.016005.
  • Schultz, J.T., Cieri, R.L., Proost, T., Pilai, R., Hodgson, M., Plum, F. and Clemente, C.J., 2021. Tail base deflection but not tail curvature varies with speed in lizards: results from an automated tracking analysis pipeline. Integrative and Comparative Biology, 61(5), pp.1769-1782.
  • Galea, N., Murphy, F., Gaschk, J.L., Schoeman, D.S. and Clemente, C.J., 2021. Quantifying finer-scale behaviours using self-organising maps (SOMs) to link accelerometery signatures with behavioural patterns in free-roaming terrestrial animals. Scientific Reports, 11(1), pp.1-10.
  • Dick, T.J., Clemente, C.J., Punith, L.K. and Sawicki, G.S., 2021. Series elasticity facilitates safe plantar flexor muscle–tendon shock absorption during perturbed human hopping. Proceedings of the Royal Society B, 288(1947), p.20210201.
  • Schultz, J.T., Beck, H.K., Haagensen, T., Proost, T. and Clemente, C.J., 2021. Using a biologically mimicking climbing robot to explore the performance landscape of climbing in lizards. Proceedings of the Royal Society B, 288(1947), p.20202576.
  • Boehm, C., Schultz, J.Clemente, C.J., 2021. Understanding the limits to the hydraulic leg mechanism: The effects of speed and size on limb kinematics in vagrant arachnids. Journal of Comparative Physiology A, 207, pp 105-116.
  • Berry, K.A., Munoz-Perez, J.P., Vintimilla-Palacios, C.P. and Clemente, C.J., 2021. Morphological and Performance Modifications in the World’s only Marine Lizard, the Galapagos Marine Iguana. Biological Journal of the Linnean Society, 133(1), pp 68-80.
  • Cieri RL, Dick TJM, Irwin R, Rumsey D, Clemente C.J. 2021 The scaling of ground reaction forces and duty factor in monitor lizards: implications for locomotion in sprawling tetrapods. Biology Letters. vol. 17, no. 2, pp. 20200612.

Dr Christofer Clemente's specialist areas of knowledge include the relationship between form, function and ecology of living and extinct animals. Dr Clemente has studied morphology, metabolic rates and biomechanics and compared these to ecological characteristics and locomotory ability in a large group of lizards, the varanids.

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